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message 1: by Sally, la reina (new)

Sally (mrsnolte) | 17335 comments Mod
Do you RSVP to events? Wipe your sweat off the machines at the gym? Turn off your cell phone at the movies?

A recent NYT article got me thinking


And while the article doesn't provide a lot of fodder for discussion, it seems to be geared towards teachers using the prompt for their students in class, it got me wondering about if there were some chart or quiz I could use to assess my politeness, where would I fall?

I think that I was raised with a high standard of manners, Miss Manners style. I never start eating until everyone has been served, know how to use the implements at a nicely set table, know how to behave myself at formal gatherings. But when it comes to interacting with the general public, I'm less polite.
I rarely look people in the eye, only smile or initiate conversation when in the mood, and don't hold the door for others.

What about you? How do you think you would fall on a politeness scale of 1-10?

message 2: by RandomAnthony (last edited Mar 16, 2010 04:51PM) (new)

RandomAnthony | 14536 comments I'm pretty polite. And everyone wipes their sweat off of machines where I work out. But then again most people are polite around here. Courtesy is highly valued in Wisconsin (serial killers excepted). I'm always holding doors. Everyone does that around here, too.

Like you, however, all that goes out the window in social situations. I'll sneak out a side door with nary a goodbye and be happy I did.

Jackie "the Librarian" | 8993 comments I'm very polite. I RSVP, I hold doors, I even wipe out the sink in the airplane bathroom for the next person.

I don't like to make eye contact with everyone I see on the street, though. As a woman, that's not always the best idea.

I turn off my cell phone at the movies, and then forget to turn it back on for a day or two afterwards. I hate that.

message 4: by Sally, la reina (new)

Sally (mrsnolte) | 17335 comments Mod
Oh, man, me too Jackie. I miss the rare and random phone call because I went to the movies last weekend.

message 5: by Cambridge (new)

Cambridge (hsquare) | 509 comments I was raised to have manners as well and am shocked that most kids today are not, I still have my kids write (not email, not text but write and snail mail thank you notes for all gifts) I do the same, I do RSVP (but am almost always on the late side doing so, but honest about my procrastination and apologize for any inconvenience) I hold doors, have my kids do the same, my kids say please and thank you for everything and to everyone (even out of my presence (i hear it all the time from other adults) and I most definitely make eye contact with tons of strangers and speak to all sorts of people on the street. I am by no means a kiss ass however, I don't bullshit and am completely myself. But I feel that I can do that and still be courteous to others without any effort.

message 6: by Kevin (new)

Kevin  (ksprink) | 11469 comments i consider myself very polite. i am please and thank you to everyone especially service workers. i hold doors for girls, carry stuff for ladies and introduce myself and others. i am ultra impressed by polite young people

message 7: by Félix (new)

Félix (habitseven) Rude people bug the hell out of me. People who treat wait staff or service personnel, or anyone, for that matter, rudely are beyond contempt for me. I always try to engage flight attendants and ticket agents in polite conversation -- yes both men and women.

But in most large metropolitan areas, people who make eye contact with strangers on the street are rubbing elbows with danger.

Remember how polite Elwood P. Dowd was in Harvey? They wanted to lock him up it was so strange.

message 8: by [deleted user] (new)

I'm presuming I'm polite. I know my kids are because every time the go to some ones house, the next time we see the parents they always say your son/daughter is so polite.

message 9: by Sally, la reina (new)

Sally (mrsnolte) | 17335 comments Mod
That's my goal for my kid.

message 10: by [deleted user] (new)

It's a good one Sally.

message 11: by Félix (new)

Félix (habitseven) "Hey, kid. Be polite or I'll knock the crap outta ya."

message 12: by Kevin (new)

Kevin  (ksprink) | 11469 comments so here is the deal sals - everyone always says "lil [insert child's name:] was soooo good at my house. said please and thank you, helped with dishes, vacuumed carpets, re-roofed house and potty trained the dog"

then you are like "wonder why he isn't that good at home?"

message 13: by RandomAnthony (last edited Mar 17, 2010 01:18AM) (new)

RandomAnthony | 14536 comments Yeah, my kids are apparently polite, too, esp. my oldest. Although I saw that he told one of his friends, a girl, online, "You are persistent in a bad way" and I laughed pretty hard.

I think I've said this before, but just about everyone here says hi to each other on the street. When I return to Chicago I have to remind myself not to try to say hi to people as they pass. Just a different world, really, but I agree, esp. if you're a woman you have to be careful and, like Safia said, gauge the situation before you respond.

Sometimes manners/courtesy can be tyrannical. That bugs me. Like "you have to go that party, they invited you, be polite". That's not courtesy to me. I don't want to go, and you can't make me.

message 14: by janine (new)

janine | 7715 comments i have manners and i am polite, i just have terrible social skills and never look anyone in the eyes. i seem distant, so distant my teachers thought i had a minor form of epilepsy.

message 15: by Dr. Detroit (new)

Dr. Detroit | 6027 comments Despite how I act around here sometimes, I'm actually very polite in person.

My Mom and Dad must've done something right.

message 16: by Jaime (new)

Jaime | 158 comments I am pretty polite. Always say please and thank you, hold doors for others, say sorry when I bump into people, etc. I never got into the habit of writing formal thank you notes but I do usually call.

In certain situations I will make eye contact and talk to people. When I was little my mom said that I used to talk to everyone.

message 17: by smetchie (new)

smetchie | 4034 comments Sigh. I'm not very polite. It isn't on purpose. I'm oblivious and off in my own world a lot of the time. I walk around not noticing people. I also have a habit of saying the wrong thing. It's a problem.

message 18: by Sarah (new)

Sarah | 13815 comments THe direct questions:
Do you RSVP to events?
Yes, but sometimes late. I am TERRIBLE about thank you notes. I once waited so long to write one that the person died.

Wipe your sweat off the machines at the gym?
Yes to the cardio machines, no to the weight machines. It's a women's gym, and that seems to be the general pattern. At the Y I used to belong to there was a spray bottle at every machine, and I dutifully cleaned them all. When in Rome...

Turn off your cell phone at the movies?
Yes, yes, a thousand times yes. I also mute it in restaurants and don't answer it at the table or when I'm in line at a store and being waited on.

However, like Gretchen, I can sometimes say the wrong thing. Zu sometimes gives me looks like "What planet are you from that you think it's ok to say that?", but she was raised in a country where everyone is born knowing that they should put their cutlery neatly together on the plate to signal they are done eating.

message 19: by Anthony (new)

Anthony Buckley (anthonydbuckley) | 145 comments Here in the UK, we are sometimes surprised by what we take to be the excessive politeness of Americans. Conversely, I have noticed Americans visiting my workplace (especially once they have been there for a week or two)complaining just how rude people are to them. One such visitor even complained directly to our boss that he never said "good morning" to her: this was to our general delight, for he was equally gruff to all of us.

In fact, of course, what counts as polite or rude in each country depends on cultural norms. I doubt that, in reality, either country is more or less kind or considerate than the other. How it is expressed, however, does differ.

message 20: by Kevin (new)

Kevin  (ksprink) | 11469 comments how rude

message 21: by Anthony (new)

Anthony Buckley (anthonydbuckley) | 145 comments What is polite or rude differs a lot from country to country.

In Nigeria, among the Yoruba, in the 1970s – perhaps to this day - whenever two men met, the younger (or socially inferior) would defer to the older (or superior) by touching both hands on the floor. Two friends, meeting in the street might (so to speak) compete, each man cheerfully touching the floor to indicate that he thought the other man was the superior. In formal circumstances, or with particular relationships, for example, to a king, to his father or especially to his father in law, a man might show his respect to the other by prostrating himself full length on his face. Female behaviour was similar, except that women knelt on the floor or as a more token gesture put one knee on the floor as a kind of curtsey.

It was usual to accompany such a greeting with a long string of verbal greetings appropriate to the occasion. Thus there were not only conventional verbal greetings for morning, afternoon, evening etc, but also for working, for arriving, for going away, for being in the house, for eating, and many more.

Not to be able to “greet” in this elaborate way was considered gauche. Once, I passed by a European acquaintance in the street and I silently smiled in greeting. My Yoruba companion expostulated to me in astonishment, “You just smile at somebody when you meet them!” he said, and he explained that, among the Yoruba, merely to smile at somebody in the street, as I had just done, would be thought very rude. .

Abigail (42stitches) | 150 comments I am generally polite as far as opening doors and eating in public, that kind of thing. But apparently, when I open my mouth I become very rude. I know I am kind of crass and pretty abrupt, but since moving to the south I have noticed that while no one before was ever bothered by the way I spoke (as in up north), now all of a sudden I am totally rude. It's pretty wild. And everyone down here expects you to say hello to them. Even passing in the street or at the laundry mat. I'm used to a friendly nod and smile, but having to speak is a little odd for me. Especially when I come off as so disdainful. I'm still getting used to it.

message 23: by Félix (new)

Félix (habitseven) Social adaptation can be rough. That's for sure. Those rude Yankees!

message 24: by Kevin (last edited Apr 08, 2010 07:27AM) (new)

Kevin  (ksprink) | 11469 comments totally gotcha on that anthony. while in Guinea West Africa i spent 16 days on two separate occasions in a small village in the bush during 2004. they spoke Tanda. the greeting was incredibly complex. i remember some of it:


but it went on for like 5 minutes. it was:

how are you?
i am fine
how is your mom?
she is fin
how is your dad?
he is fine

it ended with "ka-nee-akuna?" which meant "are there any evil spirits here?" to which you automatically replied "nope, no evil spirits here".

this went on with every single person you met all day long. if you walked past someone's hut and said this with them and then got 30 feet past and forgot something so turned around and came back you had to do it all over again. sometimes when i was in a hurry i would skirt around the backside of the village to avoid the 13 elaborate greetings i would have to do

message 25: by Félix (new)

Félix (habitseven) That's fascinating stuff, you guys. Take the scene to NYC and you can't get anyone to even make eye contact in a sea of human flesh.

message 26: by Sarah (new)

Sarah | 13815 comments Kevin "El Liso Grande" wrote: "totally gotcha on that anthony. while in Guinea West Africa i spent 16 days on two separate occasions in a small village in the bush during 2004. they spoke Tanda. the greeting was incredibly compl..."


message 27: by RandomAnthony (last edited Apr 08, 2010 09:22AM) (new)

RandomAnthony | 14536 comments And everyone down here expects you to say hello to them. Even passing in the street or at the laundry mat. I'm used to a friendly nod and smile, but having to speak is a little odd for me. Especially when I come off as so disdainful. I'm still getting used to it.

Yes, same in small town Wisconsin, Abigail...I had to learn to say hi to everyone. I said "thank you, m'am" at a restaurant today, too, and the woman behind the counter seemed highly amused.

message 28: by Anthony (new)

Anthony Buckley (anthonydbuckley) | 145 comments Times change.

When I first came to Northern Ireland, back in 1973, the walkers along country roads would nod (a backward nod!) in greeting to anybody driving along. And the driver would raise a finger in response.

This has gradually disappeared, which is a shame, perhaps because of increased traffic.

London, in contrast, was always thought a spiritual desert by non-Londoners because nobody ever looked at anybody; and because if you tried to engage somebody in conversation on, for example, a tube or bus, they would treat you as if you had a dangerous and contageous disease.

Now, however, perhaps because London is inhabited by members of ethnic groups of countless types, Londoners are almost as friendly as people elsewhere. So the direction of change is not all one-way.

message 29: by Bonnie (new)

Bonnie I'm Canadian It's in my genes to be polite. We Canadians say sorry to everyone.

message 30: by Anthony (new)

Anthony Buckley (anthonydbuckley) | 145 comments Politeness is a complicated business. In general, one is polite to strangers, not to friends. (For example, I know when my wife is cross with me when she says "please". Policemen call me "Sir" when they want to be threatening; "Tony" when they want to put me at my ease). So a measure of inappropriate rudeness or lack of politeness can be a way of being friendly to strangers.

Traditionally, in rural Ireland, people would drop into other people's homes and sit for maybe an hour but without being invited. They might get tea, but only if tea was being made, for in effect they were being treated like one of the family. The growth of the invitation ("Come round next Thursday evening")has marked the growth of a greater social distance between households.

I note that in Belfast, which (despite everything) is a friendly sort of place, people are rather abrupt and direct in their speech, for example, when asking directions or making conversation in bus queues. It's their way of being chummy.

The north and the southwest of England are rather similar. When ringing a Yorkshire university, the woman on the switchboard addressed me as "love". In Devon one can be addressed by a stranger of the opposite sex as "my handsome" or even "My lover" which conveys a certain informal affection and certainly could not be described as "politeness".

In the south east of England, in contrast, people tend to be more reserved, so they address strangers with greater formality.

message 31: by Vanessa (new)

Vanessa (buckythecat) Knarik wrote: "Kevin "El Liso Grande" wrote: "so here is the deal sals - everyone always says "lil [insert child's name:] was soooo good at my house. said please and thank you, helped with dishes, vacuumed carpet..."

I'm with Knarik. Although, I'm not from Armenia. I hold the door for EVERYONE, offer my seat to others, always say please and thank you. I smile at people I pass on the sidewalk. I think there are 17,000 people in my town. I'm not sure if that includes college students....Also, if a dude enters a building and leaves his hat on, most people here think he's either from somewhere else or just not raised right.

message 32: by Cynthia (new)

Cynthia Paschen | 7127 comments Abigail, you are spot on about the north/south differences. My oldest daughter goes to college in Atlanta. The first thing that surprised me there was when all the lunch ladies called her "baby" and "sweetheart" while I was "Ma'am." Then one day when I was visiting, one of the cafeteria ladies called out to me "HOO Wee! Do you smell GOOOOOD!" It's not something strangers normally tell me in Iowa!

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